Sixty eight.

Breaking up with a difficult client.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Quinn Finn, aka Anonymous. They say:

“I know this has been discussed in the group and on the podcast so others are doing this too… Over the last 12 months I have made the decision to stop working with certain clients who either don’t pay me, take the piss with their expectations of my time or just aren’t a right fit for whatever reason. It’s my business, I can choose who to work with, right?

For the second time in a few months, the response to my email to end the client relationship has been one of questioning my decision and disappointment that I have let them down.

I am telling myself that this is their issue and not mine but as it’s happened twice now (almost identical wording) I’m beginning to question whether I’m being too unreasonable in choosing who to work with?

I would love to hear other experiences of moving on from clients who aren’t a good fit. My T&Cs state a 15 day notice period  on both sides and I always give at least a month so it isn’t that. What can I / should I do differently?”

• • • • •

Penfold pensions logo

This episode is supported by Penfold.

The flexible pension for freelance parents. Penfold provides freelancers with an online pension that’s simple to use & completely flexible.

Sign up with the code DIFTK and get a £25 bonus into your pension pot. Penfold are also offering up to a £1,000 top up on pension transfers until the 31st of March 2021, so you can earn more from your old pension pots!

Penfold is regulated by the FCA. When you put money in a pension, it’s an investment, and like all investments, your capital is at risk. Check for benefits before transferring.

Go to

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:34] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:43] – Steve
Oh, yes. Each episode, we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids Community, do our best to answer it. But we start each episode by looking back at the last one. It was a while ago because we’ve had half term in between, but the last time around we were chatting about…?

[00:01:56] – Frankie
It was an anonymous question about Tom helping his partner find her ‘thing’, her creative thing that she wants to pursue as a job, basically.

[00:02:06] – Steve
Ruth Bradford got in touch.

She says:

“Finding the thing is hard, especially when it needs to make money. I’d say don’t focus on the wage bit for now and maybe carve out some dedicated time for her each week to just enjoy being creative for creativity’s sake. She’ll likely stumble on what she enjoys doing most and she can figure out how to make money by looking at what others have done. I think finding the thing is probably the best starting point as that is what will make her happy. All easier said than done, I realise. But no strings creative time is joyous in the short-term.”

[00:02:40] – Frankie
EJ Trivet says:

“Sometimes we focus too much on finding ‘the thing’ when the thing is already written in our backstory. We just need to step back and zoom out a bit to spot it. I did some work recently on how to identify your core values by looking back, to spot the common themes which pop out from our personal and professional lives so far. I know this makes some people feel itchy, as I just want to move forward rather than look back, but in there is usually the treasure.

Once she’s identified her core values and applies them, whatever creative channel she lands upon will feel so much clearer. Mainly providing her with a solid set of boundaries and non-negotiables on the work she says yes or no to, which in the wilds of the creative industry, is seriously powerful tool to A — build a financially viable business, B — prevent burnout and C — protect our creative integrity from crappy underpaid gigs and massive toxic egos.”

[00:03:31] – Steve
And Lorraine Adabowale says:

“I recommend framing the idea that making money is an art in itself. It can be really powerful when you see it as a creative skill. If you get the mindset around money right first, the rest will follow.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:04] – Frankie
I told you we’d have a run of anon. Here we are with another anonymous question.

[00:07:09] – Steve
Okay, in that case, we need a name. So what about Quinn Finn? Quinn Finn. Quite like that.

Lynn Gold? Skylar Morris? Jackie Hackman?

Should we go with Quinn Finn? Come on, let’s go with Quinn.

[00:07:23] – Frankie

[00:07:24] – Steve
The mighty Quinn.

Okay, this question comes from Quinn Finn. Hey, Quinn.

Quinn says:

“I know this has been discussed in the group and on the podcast, so others are doing this, too.

Over the last twelve months, I have made the decision to stop working with certain clients who either don’t pay me, take the piss with their expectations of my time, or just aren’t the right fit. For whatever reason, it’s my business. I can choose who to work with, right?

For the second time in a few months, the response to my email to end the client relationship has been one of questioning my decision and disappointment that I have let them down. I’m telling myself that this is their issue and not mine. But as it’s happened twice now with almost identical wording, I’m beginning to question whether I’m being too unreasonable in choosing who to work with.

I would love to hear other experiences of moving on from clients who aren’t a good fit.

My T&Cs state a 15 day notice period on both sides, and I always give at least a month. So it isn’t that. What can I/should I do differently?”

Thanks, Quinn.

Well, I mean, come on. “I’m beginning to question whether I’m being too unreasonable in choosing who to work with.” Do you want to grab them by the shoulders about that?

[00:08:44] – Frankie
Well, clearly they just need a reminder, don’t they? They need us to pep them up and say, “look, yes, it’s totally fine for you running your own business to decide who you will and won’t work with!” Particularly when she, he, Quinn, they…

[00:09:00] – Steve
The Medicine Woman.

[00:09:01] – Frankie
Particularly when this person said, you know, there are issues with these clients like not paying on time and yes, it is totally fine. Just know this — it is totally fine what you have done.

[00:09:14] – Steve
You are not being unreasonable in choosing to get rid of them, not remotely.

[00:09:19] – Frankie
I mean, as to how you’ve worded that email, well, we don’t know. But then is that even relevant? Does it matter? Because it sounds like they’re going to take it badly either way and I don’t get the impression this person is going to be like, “hey there client, you’re a bit of a knob, see you later”.

[00:09:37] – Steve
Yes. So we’re presuming they’ve not written that.

It can be about the wording, and they shouldn’t take it personally. They’re probably more put out. I mean, you should take it as a compliment. They’d like to keep working with you, you’re clearly good! But I mean, the language does matter.

It’s interesting. You know, you say your T&Cs state 15 day notice period on both sides, you’re giving them at least a month. So it isn’t that. But I would say, are you flagging that in your email? So for example, you could say, I know in our T&Cs, when we started working together, it says 15 days notice, but I’d love to give you 30 days notice. So it feels like you’re being reasonable. Highlight that basically. You could quite easily dump them in a couple of weeks, but you want to support them further. So it feels like you’re being nice about it, I guess.

[00:10:31] – Frankie
Maybe it depends on how you framed it? Not necessarily the wording, but like — is it framed as, “I don’t want to work with you anymore” or is it framed as, “I’m moving direction and I want to do different projects and I don’t want to do the work you’re offering me anymore”? Is it more about a shift in your business rather than I just don’t want to do your work or work with you? You don’t want them to take it personally, but if the email is literally like, “I want to end our relationship”, you’re literally breaking up with them. You know what I mean? That could be hard to swallow.

[00:11:11] – Steve
“I’m changing directions slightly” is good. Although if you’re not, then they will no longer refer you because they will think that you’re not available for that sort of work. Now somebody will say, well if they’re that crappy a client then they’re probably going to give you crappy referrals…

[00:11:28] – Frankie
I’m happy to say that! I do think that’s true.

[00:11:34] – Steve
I’ve worked with freelancers where the relationship has come to an end and usually there’s that nice, friendly, why it’s happening sort of thing. Short and sweet. Again, not putting the blame on me even though maybe I’m a crap client, I don’t know! Also giving me notice. So, “this will happen in two months time” or 30 days time or whatever. Also like reflecting all, you know, positively on everything we’ve done together. So it’s a good feeling. And then hopefully, you can stay in touch if you want to.

It’s that thing of making it feel like, “hey, this has been a positive experience”. Yeah. I think that is how I like being told, anyway. “Hey, we had some good times together, but now it’s time to go our separate ways”.

[00:12:24] – Frankie
Yeah. And how did that make you feel?

[00:12:27] – Steve
How did it make me feel? The fact is, the thing is… Maybe I’m not being the unreasonable client, I was kind of cool with it. I was like, “okay”. Even if they wrote back and said, “look, I have so much client work based in this particular field to focus on right now that I can’t do your work to the standard I want to do it, so I really feel like you should go and work with somebody else”. If it had been that sort of response — and it’s quite a good one, by the way — then I would have been fine with that, too.

[00:12:57] – Steve
Yes, it’s about how you frame it, but I think if they act badly towards it, if they feel let down, if they’re disappointed, if they’re angry, then that’s on them.

[00:13:20] – Frankie
Yeah. It shows the picture that you’re painting of them, which is that they’re not a particularly great client, and the fact they’ve reacted in that way is indicative of their character overall. And the fact is, probably one of the reasons you don’t want to work with them!

[00:13:33] – Steve

[00:13:34] – Frankie
If anything, that reaction is something to be celebrated, because it’s like, “oh, they really are a dick! This is cool. I should definitely be ending this relationship. I am 100% on the right track”.

[00:13:44] – Steve
So true. You know it, Quinn.

Don’t let them persuade you to come back either. Don’t let them persuade you, Quinn.

[00:14:00] – Frankie
I think it is difficult when you work for yourself, on your own. There’s no middleman between you and your client. You build real relationships with people, and it’s really hard to end those relationships. And if they react in that way, it’s hard not to feel responsible or guilty or start questioning your decisions. I understand why Quinn would feel like that, because on the other end of it… For example, when I’ve had clients, they’re like, “oh, we’re working with a different designer now”. I’m like, “oh, my God. Shot through the heart!!”

[00:14:33] – Steve
And you’re to blame.

[00:14:35] – Frankie
Like, that’s PAIN.

[00:14:37] – Steve
You give freelancing a bad name.

[00:14:42] – Frankie
So they might not know that you find them difficult. And this has come out of the blue for them, and they feel, like upset about it. Maybe there’s a lesson there in that. If you’re putting up with a lot of shit, maybe flag that shit more earlier in a relationship, if you see what I mean. Rather than just put up with it, and then go, “you know what, I’m done with this”. Then, to them, it feels very random because they haven’t been told previously that the way they’re behaving is a problem.

[00:15:16] – Steve
That’s a good point.

[00:15:17] – Frankie
Whereas if you flag stuff before and they still haven’t paid or they still haven’t made a change, then they might be more like — “okay, fair enough”.

[00:15:25] – Steve
It’s so true. That’s so like in relationships, isn’t it? Where you got dumped and then you’re like, “well, hang on — you never told me not to do that thing!”

[00:15:35] – Frankie
You never told me eating an apple was like a massive issue!

I think the approach Quinn has taken is good in that — particularly earlier on in my freelance career — I tried to get rid of certain clients but wasn’t clear enough that that’s what I was doing. Like I’d say, “oh, I’m too busy at the moment”, or, I don’t know, like, deflect them in a different way. But they always came back.

So while it’s not necessarily been a positive experience for you to send that email and get that response, at least I would hope the message is clear and therefore you shouldn’t have that, like, scrabbly, messy, ongoing stuff where they keep emailing you things and you just have to say no repeatedly. Better to say no once with vigor than feel like you’ve got to go through that and feel guilty over and over again.

In short, Quinn, it is your business. You can choose who to work with. And I have a feeling this is a bit of a pivotal moment for you. You’re going to cut the shit out. You’re going to get better clients, bigger clients. Clients will make you happier and treat you better and pay you because those clients exist. And cutting these guys out is the first step to finding them, right? Go get them.

[00:17:02] – Steve
Remember, you are Mighty Quinn.


What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.